Republican presidential candidates hoping to win Michigan's mid-January primary have agreed to attend an Oct. 9 debate in Dearborn.
The debate at the Ford Community Performing Arts Center will be sponsored by CNBC and The Wall Street Journal, the state Republican Party and the University of Michigan-Dearborn announced Thursday.
The two-hour debate will air live at 4 p.m. EDT on the cable channel and be rebroadcast on MSNBC at 9 p.m.
Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis says the Detroit suburb will be an apt place for the candidates to address trade and manufacturing issues since Ford Motor Co. has its world headquarters in the city.
Dearborn also could receive some of the Iraqi refugees the Bush administration wants to resettle in the U.S. The city of 97,000 is known for its national Arab American museum, many mosques and scores of Arabic-signed businesses. About 300,000 people in the Detroit area trace their roots to the Middle East, and Dearborn is home to many of them.
Michigan already was getting attention from GOP front-runners. But the state became more attractive this week after the governor signed a law moving up the presidential primary to Jan. 15, making it one of the earliest states to have a say in the presidential selection process.
Most of the Republican candidates will be in Michigan this month speaking to more than 1,500 GOP activists expected to attend the Sept. 21-22 Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island.
The candidates will return two-and-a-half weeks later for the debate.
Anuzis said the debate will give Republicans another step up over their Democratic rivals, most of whom have signed pledges not to campaign in Michigan and other states that have violated Republican and Democratic party rules by moving their elections ahead of Feb. 5.
"This will be a great opportunity for Republicans to raise their profile in a swing state that is critical from an Electoral College standpoint," Anuzis told The Associated Press. "This is an additional venue to allow us to take advantage of a blunder on the part of the Democrats by ignoring Michigan and Florida."
Democratic leaders in Michigan have asked the Democratic candidates to campaign in the state despite the pledge.
Eleven presidential debates have been held since April, six for Democrats and five for Republicans, including a GOP debate Wednesday night in New Hampshire.